When should Sailor Moon be set?

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Mar 8, 2012
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#1
Besides "an absolute hot mess," the timeline in the manga can be described as "rolling contemporaneous." This means that the action is set whenever the story was published, even if time in-universe doesn't progress at the same rate as real-time. For example, the Dark Kingdom arc was (mostly) released in 1992; in Act 6, we see a newspaper dated 1992. The Black Moon arc was (mostly) released in 1993; in Act 19, Mamoru's calendar shows the month and year as August 1993. On the surface, this would seem to indicate that a year has gone by, but the characters are all still the same age and the dialog suggests that only a few months have passed since the series began. So, though the story only covers roughly two years in these characters' lives, it's ostensibly set in the years 1992 thru 1997*.

(*The exception would be the Infinity arc, which, for whatever baffling reason, was set, at the earliest, in the year 2002: Hotaru's year of birth is given as 199X. We are told she was 8 when she was severely wounded in the lab fire, and that the lab fire happened four years ago. 8+4=12. 12+1990=2002.)

I don't remember if any specific years were ever shown or stated in the anime, but we can probably assume it also had a rolling contemporaneous timeline, as is common with animated series. (Curiously enough, the CWi dub of S was similarly set in at least the year 2001, as characters mention that it's the 21st century. Undoubtedly CWi meant to set the show in 2000, when the dub was released, but 2000 was still the 20th century, not the 21st.)

The live action series only lasted one season and obviously progressed in real-time. It, too, was set contemporaneously in 2003-2004, with the arcade now being a karaoke club, and the girls all having camera phones and laptops. At this time, the manga was revised and re-released, and though the aforementioned dates were left unchanged, floppy disks were replaced with compact discs, so some modernization did occur.

It's probably safe to assume that the musicals have all been set contemporaneously as well. Certainly La Reconquista was set in 2013, with the girls having smart phones.

Likewise, Crysternal has a (rolling?) contemporaneous timeline: we see Obama on the front page of a newspaper, and the girls have laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

Even the recent novelizations of the Dark Kingdom arc set the action in the present day: again characters have smart phones, and the arcade is portrayed as being basically on the verge of going out of business.

This leads me to my question: When should Sailor Moon be set? Should it be forever set in the same year as its newest iteration is released? Should it be kept in the nineties? Should it be set in a different era altogether?
 

sapphire91

Solaris Luna
Jul 6, 2018
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#3
The 90s anime was the same hot mess. For me it should be set in the early 90s. As far away from the present the story is set the timeless it feels. Every time they try to set something in recent years the more dated it feels just a couple of years ago. The life action is a good example of that. The 90s show from our perspective now in 2020 looks and feels like something timeless. But every time I see the phones and disck mens from the life action I start laughing.
 

Sailor Starlight

Lumen Cinereum
May 31, 2009
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#4
Interesting question. My gut tells me it should be set in the '90s when the story was first created. The era influenced all the aesthetic and stylistic choices of the manga and the anime. It would be difficult to divorce the story from that decade unless you updated other aspects like fashion, architecture, slang, pop culture etc. Not to mention, if the present is already modern there won't be enough contrast with the future and Crystal Tokyo.

On the other hand, having a contemporaneous setting enhances the story's relevance and relatability. In the end, it really comes down to the quality of the adaptation. A good adaptation will weave the story around the setting and bring the updated elements in organically. I was never bothered by the updated setting in the live-action series. Perhaps it was because the early '00s weren't that much different from the late '90s. Perhaps it was because I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't care. Something I can't say about Crystal whose updated setting stuck out like a sore thumb and made an already poor adaptation feel even more sterile and artificial.
 
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Mar 8, 2012
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#9
I'd prefer the series be kept in the nineties, though I'd love a one-off movie or TV special adaptation set in the 1930s or in the sixties.

*IF* they're going to continue to set future adaptations contemporaneously, then they need to properly update the story. It's not enough to just give the characters the latest gadgets. Setting the 2030 reboot in 2030 but having the characters still be exactly as they were in 1992 would make no sense. For example: In 1992, Minako couldn't really be an idol because there was the obstacle of auditions and entertainment gatekeeping, but today? With social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc? She would definitely be an influencer.
 

sapphire91

Solaris Luna
Jul 6, 2018
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#11
Must be pretty ancient, tho, like in the last time when the Earth had nurtured a civilization far more advanced than the present one. :)
You cought my drift. I wanna see that very advanced society but people wearing medieval clothing. I think Sailor Moon can really do a great prequel a la Fate Zero. For me the Silver Millenium and the Golden Kingdom are some of the most interesting aspects. And the Sailor Wars, but it will get too different if it goes in this direction. They cather to fans abd most fans want it light-hearted.
 
Jun 30, 2010
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#14
I think the best time to set Sailor Moon is the 90s.

Changing the story to the modern day introduces all sorts of problems, such as the need for communicators when everyone has a cell phone, and the whole idea of meeting face to face to discuss things., and the whole idea of energy schemes in retail stores that are dying off. There is also a very 90s aesthetic to the show that is reflected in the character design. By the time you change so many things, it's no longer Sailor Moon.

Personally, one of the things that grated me about PGSM was how it tried to push "modern" technology to differentiate itself and it turned me off early in its run. For instance, if Usagi took a picture of someone with her cell phone, she could then disguise herself as that person. This really took away part of the fun from the series, because part of the purpose of the disguise pen was seeing what disguise Usagi would cook up next. If she just has to take a picture, that's both too convenient (requires no thought on her part) and too limiting (one is limited to what is provided in the environs). Tying Sailor Luna's transformation to a cell phone was extra cheese on top of pile of spaghetti and meatballs -- I think I'm mixing metaphors again.

I'm an old fuddy duddy. Leave Sailor Moon in the 90s, please.
 

DREWdesu

Luna Crescens
Sep 24, 2008
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#15
Definitely 90s but I enjoyed PGSM's 2003 aesthetic -chef's kiss-.

Sailor Moon definitely ended up similar to Street Fighter. The Street Fighter series was originally supposed to occur in the late 80's to 90's but as SF4 went out that totally went out the window along with the birth years of each Street Fighter to accommodate the use of technology. Eg: in SF4 Chun-Li is seen in a photo from a camera with and LCD screen, Rashid uses his mobile/cellphone...etc. Sailor Moon has definitely done the same with the use of mobile phones, tablets, Mini Discs (MD), CDs...etc.
 
Mar 8, 2012
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#16
I think the best time to set Sailor Moon is the 90s.

Changing the story to the modern day introduces all sorts of problems, such as the need for communicators when everyone has a cell phone
To be fair, the communicators could be considered a secure line, there's no need for dialing numbers/looking up contacts, and they don't need to be charged. I'm also an old fuddy duddy who's never used a cell phone and finds them needlessly complicated, so I think the communicators allow for a simpler way for the team to stay in touch.

and the whole idea of energy schemes in retail stores that are dying off
That's really only the premise of a few chapters in the manga. I don't think bridal shops or jewelry shops are obsolete just yet, and Rental Shop Dark could easily become a streaming service. (In fact, they could easily update any retail shop energy stealing scheme by doing an evil(er) version of Amazon or Mercari or any other popular online retailer.)

Personally, one of the things that grated me about PGSM was how it tried to push "modern" technology to differentiate itself and it turned me off early in its run. For instance, if Usagi took a picture of someone with her cell phone, she could then disguise herself as that person. This really took away part of the fun from the series, because part of the purpose of the disguise pen was seeing what disguise Usagi would cook up next. If she just has to take a picture, that's both too convenient (requires no thought on her part) and too limiting (one is limited to what is provided in the environs).
I agree that the Teletia S was a little less magical than the Disguise Pen (though it was really a Disguise Pen-Communicator combo), but I've never liked the Disguise Pen to begin with. It's just in the series for the sake of including standard magical girl tropes, but there's no in-universe logic behind it. And at least in PGSM, *ALL* the girls could use disguise power, not just Usagi and Minako. (Also, I don't think it was necessarily as limited as you think. I feel like they could have taken photos of illustrations and been able to rock those looks, so they'd still only be limited by their imaginations...and art skills.)